Environmental threats dominate global risks in 2019, UK experts warn
By Emily Beament, Press Association Environment Correspondent
Environmental threats including extreme weather and a failure of climate action are among the top risks facing the world this year, economists have warned.
The World Economic Forum has raised concerns the world is "sleepwalking into a crisis" with global risks from political and economic tensions to climate change intensifying but with an apparent lack of will to tackle them.
Its new global risks report puts environmental problems on the top of the agenda, warning extreme weather events, made worse by global warming, and a failure to curb and adapt to climate change are the most likely risks in 2019.
A failure of climate action, which could lead to problems such as sea levels rising and threatening cities with flooding, and extreme weather are also among the five most significant risks in terms of the impact they could have.
Wildlife loss - which can threaten food security - as well as man-made environmental disasters and natural disasters are also in the top 10 of risks both in terms of high impact and high likelihood in 2019.
So too is the potential for water crises, which can be linked to and exacerbated by climate change.
But worsening international relations and a darkening economic outlook, in part caused by geopolitical tensions, look set to undermine cooperation on issues such as climate change.
Borge Brende, president of the World Economic Forum said: "With global trade and economic growth at risk in 2019, there is a more urgent need than ever to renew the architecture of international cooperation."
He added: "What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today."
Alison Martin, group chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group, strategic partners for the report, said: "2018 was sadly a year of historic wildfires, continued heavy flooding and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
"It is no surprise that in 2019, environmental risks once again dominate the list of major concerns.
"So, too, does the growing likelihood of environmental policy failure or a lack of timely policy implementation.
"To effectively respond to climate change requires a significant increase in infrastructure to adapt to this new environment and transition to a low-carbon economy."
With a multitrillion-dollar investment shortfall to what is needed looming by 2040, she urged businesses to develop a climate resilience strategy and act on it immediately.
Tanya Steele, chief executive of WWF, said: "We are the first generation to know that we are destroying the world and the last that can do anything about it.
The report was a "wake-up call for the world and business leaders alike", she said.
"We urgently need a new global deal for people and nature to kick start a global programme of recovery to ensure we and future generations have a world that is fit to live in."
The Bishop of Dudley, Graham Usher, warned the world's most deprived areas will be affected most severely by climate change.
He said: "It is significant that the threats posed by climate change have been recognised by the world's top economic experts.
"While this report serves to strengthen calls for urgent action to protect and sustain God's creation, it also highlights the peril of inactivity and delay, which particularly places the economically poorest people in our world at risk of devastating consequences."